With parks across the nation shuttered for the past month, we've had to resort to taking virtual tours of national parks or watching Old Faithful erupt via livestream, while animals lived their best lives with humans at home. But with the end of shelter-in-place in sight for some cities and states, national parks have already started to reopen across the country. (Sorry, animals.)
According to the National Park Service, parks will reopen in phases this summer in order to keep visitors and employees as safe as possible and to give parks time to take certain safety measures such as disinfecting restrooms and public buildings, installing plexiglass shields at visitor centers and giving personal protective equipment to maintenance workers. The push to reopen comes after President Trump said in April that he wanted to reopen some of the country's national parks as quickly as possible.
Dates have even been set for when lodgings will be open to reservations, although isolated cabins and camping will likely reopen long before crowded hotels. In terms of access to trails and landscapes, many parks started to reopen in May, including more famous sites like Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, Joshua Tree in California, the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Great Smoky Mountains National Park between North Carolina and Tennessee.
Even with parks open, it's still best to practice social distancing, wear a mask, and be patient as park workers try to keep everyone safe. According to the NPS website, visitors should follow local health orders like those that restrict travel, avoid crowding and practice Leave no Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe, healthy and beautiful.
Here's what parks have already reopened:
Yosemite: The Yosemite Wilderness is now open to those with existing wilderness or Half Dome permits. The rest of the park hopes to begin a phased opening in June.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon: The park is open but facilities such as campgrounds, visitor centers, restaurants, markets, wilderness permit stations, and lodging remain closed.
Joshua Tree: Park entrances, roads, parking lots, trails, most restrooms and individual campsites are now open to the public. However, visitor centers and group campsites remain closed.
Grand Canyon: The South Rim South Entrance is open from May 22 to 25, allowing access to viewpoints at Pipe Creek Vista, Twin Overlooks, Duck on a Rock, Thor's Hammer, No Name Point and Navajo Point.
Yellowstone: The South and East entrances of the park are open, allowing access to these areas: Lake, Canyon, Norris, Old Faithful, West Thumb and Grant Village.
Grand Teton: The park is open, with access to Teton Park Road, Moose-Wilson Road and North Park Road, as well as daytime hiking trails.
Big Hole: Some trails are open
Big South Fork: Trails and backcountry camping are open
Cape Cod National Seashore: Footpath to Coast Guard Beach is open
Capitol Reef: Some areas open for day-use and overnight camping
Chickasaw National Recreation Area: Some areas open to recreation around Veterans Lake including parking, toilets, fishing docks and picnic areas
Cumberland Island National Seashore: Beaches, trails and docks are open
Everglades National Park: Some areas are open for recreation including toilets (and entry fees are waived)
George Washington Carver National Monument: Some trails, picnic areas and toilets open for day-use only
Gulf Islands National Seashore: The Okaloosa area is open with no toilet-access
Lake Mead National Recreation Area: Some areas open to annual pass holders
Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area: Boat launches are open
Mammoth Cave: Surface trails are open
Mount Rainier: Backcountry is open for hiking
Padre Island National Seashore: Overnight beach camping open on North Beach and South Beach
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